Chivas seek unity amid protests ahead of CONCACAF Champions League final
GUADALAJARA, Mexico -- Chivas captain Jair Pereira said he and his team are fully focused on the CONCACAF Champions League final second leg against Toronto, despite protests from players in the build-up to the match.
Chivas' preparation has been blighted by an ongoing disquiet in the squad, which is reportedly at odds with club's directors over a lack of bonus payments.
During Chivas training in Estadio Akron on Tuesday evening, some players turned their shirts inside out, while other wore white T-shirts bearing the hashtag "Directors fulfill your part" on them, above the words: "Let's go for another title. Fans and players are united."
.@chivas players out to train on the eve of @TheChampions final vs. @torontofc. Players either have their shirts inside-out or are wearing a white protest T-shirt.— Tom Marshall (@mexicoworldcup) April 25, 2018
"Directors fulfill your part ... Players and fans united. Let's go for another title!" pic.twitter.com/0ImyuIkq7H
But Pereira stressed the players will not be thinking about anything aside from winning the CONCACAF Champions League trophy and booking a place at the Club World Cup for the first time in the club's history, with the the Liga MX side 2-1 up from the first leg.
"We know how to separate the issues," Pereira said in a news conference, for which he didn't wear a club shirt. "Tomorrow we're playing for a lot of things in the future."
"The fans should know that the team has maintained its focus, we are more united than ever and 90 minutes are left."
The sudden death of Chivas defender Miguel Basulto's father on Sunday was described as a "catastrophe" by coach Matias Almeyda and the squad made the 90-minute bus ride from Guadalajara to Ocotlan to attend the wake and support their teammate just 48 hours before the final.
"Tomorrow we will all give everything," Pereira said. "It is a final with the added factor that we'll go out for our teammate [Basulto] and we will give everything on the field."
Reports have also surfaced that if Chivas do win the title, the celebration meal involving players and directors won't take place, with players still unhappy at the lack of advancement over payment negotiations.
Almeyda praised Toronto's quality and said he hadn't decided whether to play with a back five or back four, but indicated there would be no man-marker for Sebastian Giovinco.
The former Argentina international said that his team would be concerned primarily on its own game and not stopping Toronto and didn't back away from stating the importance of the CONCACAF Champions League to the Guadalajara club.
"It is very important and transcendental in the history of this club, because Chivas have never had the chance to go to a Club World Cup and haven't won this trophy since 1962," said Almeyda.
"This great dream began in the preseason after we'd been crowned champions one year ago and we knew that we'd qualified to play this tournament."
"Today we are there on the brink [of victory] and 90 minutes of the most beautiful thing [in football, winning a trophy]. We are going to play with a huge desire to win and become champions."
Tom Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MexicoWorldCup.